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Upper Tyrone considers police coverage

| Thursday, June 16, 2005

Residents in Upper Tyrone Township heard a proposal from Everson police Chief Mark Price about extending police coverage from the borough to include the township.

The proposal would cost the township between $4,000 and $4,800 per month, with Everson maintaining the liability for the department. Yearly, up to $57,600 would be paid by the township for the partnership. It would also allow the officers to work some 60 hours per week covering both areas while on duty.

Currently, Everson is only funding 25 hours per week in active duty. Additionally, the increase in service area and population would make the police force eligible for grants that are currently unavailable.

"We're hoping that if we come together, the grants will become available for additional police officers, vehicles and equipment," Price said.

As recently as 2002, supervisors rejected a proposal from Everson officials because of the high cost and inability to agree on how to share revenue from fines and citations.

Supervisor Samuel Killinger said the new proposal would split fines equally among the township and borough, helping to defray from the cost charged to Upper Tyrone.

Price suggested that the program would have at least a six-month trial if approved. He would, however, prefer a trial period of up to a year in order to get the officers familiar with the local traffic and patrol patterns.

In 2002, the cost was estimated at $2,500 per month to the township. Everson is paying $151,441 per year, or $12,620 a month for its police force of two part-time officers -- Price and Brian Harvey.

The majority of the borough's cost is in paying the liability insurance. The part-time officers do not receive personal health insurance.

Extending police coverage beyond traditional municipal boundaries is becoming more common.

"A lot of the boroughs, a lot of the townships, a lot of the smaller townships, are all joining because they can't afford to fund one themselves," said John O'Laughlin, a deputy sheriff attending the meeting with Price and Harvey.

"We're struggling as a department ourselves to make it," Price said.

Township residents have voiced concern in recent months about several burglaries and poor enforcement by state police of speeding on local roads.

Killinger said supervisors intend to ask Scottdale officials for an estimated cost on a similar contract with its police force. Whether the township adopts a program for police coverage will likely hinge on a show of support from local residents for the cost.

Killinger said that although the township is still in the information-gathering stage, he can't discount the possibility of having to raise taxes in order to fund a police force.

Killinger said that if a tax hike is in order, he would likely ask township residents to vote on the proposal in a referendum on the fall ballot.

Scottdale Police Department's budget for 2004 was $458,000 with six officers providing 24-hour-a-day coverage.

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